Monday, November 8, 2010

Massachusetts Tax Repeal taps Drug, Alcohol Abuse Funds

Boston Herald

When Massachusetts voters decided to eliminate the sales tax on alcohol, they also eliminated a main source of funding for the state’s drug and alcohol abuse programs.

Now lawmakers and advocates are scrambling to shore up money for the programs in the face of an ongoing budget crunch.

Lawmakers last year voted to apply the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax rate to liquor sold in stores to bring in an extra $110 million annually to help pay for substance abuse treatment Massachusetts.

Liquor store owners and other opponents of the tax dumped more than $3.7 million into an advertising campaign to persuade voters to repeal the levy.

Supporters of the tax say that it was designed to help shield critically needed detox beds and other detox programs from the ups and downs of the budget cycle.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Alcohol is more harmful than Heroin or Crack: Study

NY Daily News

It's sobering news for drinkers.

Alcohol is even worse than heroin and crack on the list of "most harmful" drugs, according to a new study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.

A variety of social, physical and psychological problems that are caused by drugs were examined by a panel of experts, who concluded that alcohol, heroin and crack were the most harmful to others while heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were the most harmful to individual users, CNN reported.

Dr. Petros Livados, director of the Addiction Institute of New York at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, agreed with the study findings.

"Both in terms of the medical consequences as well as societal consequences, I agree that alcohol ranks very high in overall harmfulness,"he told the News. "Alcohol has tremendous repercussions in our society in terms of drunk driving and societal consequences.”

Twenty drugs were scored on 16 criteria – nine related to the harms that a particular drug does to an individual and seven to the harms a drug does to others. All the drugs were scored out of 100 points, and overall, alcohol came in the highest, at 72 points, according to The Lancet. Heroin came in second with 55 points and crack cocaine took third place with 54 points.

While cocaine and tobacco were found to be equally harmful, LSD and ecstasy were found to be the least harmful, according to

Funding for the study came from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in London.

The report in the Lancet was co-authored by Professor David Nutt, Britain's former chief drug policy advisor, who stirred up controversy last year when he wrote an article that said riding a horse was more dangerous than taking ecstasy, CNN reported.

Almost 17.6 million adults in the United States either are alcoholics or have alcohol problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But because alcohol is legal and easy to access, many people don't think it is a problem for them, says addiction expert Dr. Jeffrey Parsons, chair of the psychology department at Hunter College.

"It is legal and socially sanctioned, so it does not carry the same stigma and issues that illegal drugs do,"he says. "But the negative health consequences of alcohol are even greater than with many illegal drugs.”

Drinkers tend to equate "legal"with "safe,"but that's not necessarily the case, says Lebanon Valley College psychology professor Lou Manza. "In the general public's mind, because you can go and buy alcohol in the store, it is okay,"he said.

One major difference between alcohol and other drugs, such as nicotine, is that there is a "safe"level of it for many people, Livados says. It's generally recognized that two drinks a day for men and one for women can be considered safe, with exceptions such as people with depression or anxiety, those with alcohol dependence and pregnant women.

"It's not the same with nicotine,"Livados says. "We have not been able to find a low threshold under which smoking cigarettes is safe. There's no such thing."

Alcohol dependence tends to be masked more often than dependence upon other drugs, Parsons says. "With alcohol, someone can feel like a law abiding citizen despite the fact that they're abusing a drug," he told The News.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Warning over Parent Alcohol Abuse 'Child Effect'

BBC News

Millions of children are at risk of neglect because of a parent's drinking, and yet the problem is being ignored, say charities.

Alcohol Concern and the Children's Society want social workers to have more compulsory training on how to deal with alcohol abuse within families.

Their report estimates 2.6m children live with a parent whose drinking could lead to neglect.

A body representing social workers said alcohol posed more problems than drugs.

Unsurprisingly, a poll carried out by Alcohol Concern in July found an overwhelming majority thought that heavy drinking by parents had a negative impact on children - many thought it was as harmful as drug abuse. However, the two charities say that the scale of the problem is not fully recognised.

The parents of the 2.6 million children are defined as "hazardous" drinkers - either because of the sheer amount or frequency of their drinking, or because their drinking, even at a lesser level, leads to other problems, such as not being able to get up in the morning, or fulfil "expected duties".

Of those 2.6m children, 700,000 are being raised by a parent defined as an alcoholic.

No training

Despite alcohol or substance misuse being suggested as a factor in more than half of social worker cases which progress to the "serious review" stage, there is relatively little emphasis placed on the problem within social worker training.

Recent research suggested that one third of social workers had received no training on alcohol or drugs, and, of the remainder, half had been given three hours or less.

Bob Reitemeier, the chief executive of The Children's Society, said: "I cannot stress strongly enough the harmful impact that substance abuse can have on both children and whole families - it is imperative that everyone understands these risks and we believe that education is the key.

"We are calling on the government to make sure that everyone who needs either training or education to deal with parental substance abuse is given the appropriate assistance."

Mandatory substance abuse training for social workers was recommended in a 2003 report from the government's own drug advisory group.

Alcohol Concern suggested that the system currently "sweeps the problem under the carpet".

Chief executive Don Shenker said: "Millions of children are left to do their best in incredibly difficult circumstances.

"A government inquiry must look into all aspects of parental alcohol misuse so that we can improve outcomes for these children."

Groups representing social workers agreed with the report's recommendations.

Dr Sarah Galvani, who chairs the British Association of Social Workers Special Interest Group in Alcohol and Other Drugs, said training for both newly-qualified and existing social workers was "lacking".

"Problematic alcohol abuse by parents is highlighted by social workers as far more prevalent than drug use.

"Alongside the overlapping experiences of domestic violence and mental ill health, parental alcohol and other drug use are the three factors that repeatedly put children at risk of serious harm.

"We must support social workers to work as best as they can in what are often very complex and challenging situations."

Public health minister Anne Milton said health service reforms would help local communities put in place services tailored to tackle problems such as this.

She said: "This report highlights the harm that millions of children face because their parents drink too much alcohol.

"It paints a shocking picture, which is why we must make sure that we identify early on, children and families that need support."